Parisini Photo 2
World Championship

Ambitious Italy eye Slovenia challenge

EHF / Adrian Costeiu

Italy’s men have featured at the EHF EURO and the World Championship only once in each tournament, in 1998 and 1997. But as other teams have moved onwards and upwards, Italy found themselves a tier below, trying with all their might to be back among the best.

Tough losses marked their premature exits in the qualification phase of both major tournaments in recent years, yet the mood is now high, with the expectations also set due to the emergence of strong generations recently.

A crunch double-header against Slovenia now awaits in phase 2 part 1 of the IHF Men’s World Championship 2023, yet Italy’s eyes are also fixed on the EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers, earmarked as the tournament where the “Azzurri” could make their comeback to the elite.

“With a 24-team tournament, I think we stand a chance to qualify for EHF EURO 2024. We were always facing tough opponents in the run to a berth to the final tournament, as Italy were in pot 4 for every draw in the past years.”

“We improved throughout the years, we got better and our youth and junior teams qualified for major events, helping the players earn more experience,” says Italy coach Riccardo Trillini.

Indeed, Italy proved their mettle in the qualification phase 1 for the IHF Men’s World Championship 2023, where they finished second in Group 4, level on points with the Faroe Islands after securing wins against Latvia, 36:23, and Luxembourg, 29:28.

In the three games played in January, captain Andrea Parisini scored ten goals, making him a key cog in Italy’s machine.

The 27-year-old line player is one of the ten players who are representing Italy in other leagues, currently plying his trade for Istres Provence Handball, in the French first league.

“We have players who are currently in the German Bundesliga, in the Spanish and the French league, top competitions which are better than the Italian league. But the players who are competing in Serie A are also improving from season to season,” says Andrea Parisini.

The young guns aiming high

With the focus set clear on the future, what is said about the present and the double-header against Slovenia?

“We are really humbled to play against such a great team, to see how much we have improved over the last years. We scheduled two friendly games against them in the past, but they were cancelled due to the pandemic, so facing them in this environment will be a test for all of us,” adds Trillini.

Trillini Photo 1

The first match is scheduled in Padova, on Italian soil, on Wednesday 16 March and it will be the first for Uros Zorman, who took over as Slovenia coach following their meagre 16th place finish at EHF EURO 2022.

This means that Slovenia will surely have some changes in the tactical system, which Trillini relishes to exploit when given the chance.

“We are focusing on defence and trying to be better in that stance, which could give us a chance to win the game. It will be hard, nearly impossible because the difference is big between us and Slovenia, they have many players who are currently in the EHF Champions League and have a lot of experience,” says Italy’s coach.

With the winner of the double-header facing Serbia in phase 2 part 2, Italy know that they could hardly beat two established European teams in one month.

Yet Trellini has always underlined the importance of such games for the growth of Italian handball in the coming years. He was named as the team’s coach in 2017, with the team growing on a step-by-step basis.

“Once again, I am truly happy with what we achieved in the past years and, from my part, I think we will continue to improve,” says Trellini.

He is echoed by Parisini, despite the sheer inexperience of a roster of 19 players, whose average age is a little over 24 for the games against Slovenia.

“This is the first time we reached this stage in nearly 20 years and maybe we will not beat Slovenia now but these games will help us improve on our mission to qualify for EHF EURO 2024,” concludes Italy’s captain.

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